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re:Virals 218

Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was:

 
   end of summer
   the rust on my scissors
   smells of marigolds

      Margaret Chula, The Wonder Code (2017)

Radhamani Sarma sees a lament on time’s passage:

Many thanks for Haiku Foundation blog for featuring Margaret Chula, whose haiku I am delighted to comment on this week. The beginning denotes a season, the first line beginning with “end of summer” after a long hot spell. We get to know more about what? “The end of summer,” giving us more space and a chance to ponder the intention of the speaker.

It could also be the beginning of autumn with the feeling of cold, fall impinging upon all the surroundings; “the rust on my scissors” implies the slow oxidization on the scissors. The third line “smells of marigolds” takes us into a vast vista of symbolic references. The many colors denoted by marigold, such as orange, yellow, or copper, add to the tempo of the poem and suggest the mood of the speaker.

The end of summer, entering autumn, and the slow rusting, all represented by the symbolic marigold flowers give us a sense of the persona weaving a tale of lost love, or a sweet memory of a girl saddened by the collocation of time’s tyranny.

Clayton Beach finds an evocation of the aesthetic “sabi”:

In its quiet evocation of the melancholy of early autumn and all the symbolism of aging into our twilight years that this entails, Margaret Chula’s haiku evokes the classic “sabi” aesthetic that has so captured the hearts of many generations of haiku poets. While the kanji used for the two words differ, the word “sabi” used for the haiku aesthetic is a homophone that also means “rust.” Sabi is characterized by the rustic, but also a detached, impersonal loneliness that revels in solitude and the silence of nature.

Here, the patina on the scissors underscores the sense of time’s passage without directly evoking the speaker’s emotions. Everything is said, but at one step removed. All that is left of summer is the rust on the blades that still smells strongly of marigolds — a sweet, spicy aroma — but we can infer by their absence, and the fact that the speaker has noticed the smell lingering in the rust, that the flowers themselves may be gone and that summer has finally ended.

A sensuous ku, the focus on the rust itself brings thoughts of age, decay and evanescence, capturing a feeling of resigned acceptance that we generally find in haiku about autumn, despite the presence of the words “summer” and “marigolds.” This subtle shift and playing with the liminal moment as summer imperceptibly shifts to fall, heightens the emotional shading of the haiku in a way that merely evoking autumn directly would not have accomplished. This saying without saying, the pointing to emotional content through naturalistic imagery is quintessential sabi, and hearkens to the quiet understatement of Basho.

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You’ll find next weeks poem below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.

Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!

re:Virals 219:


   桃咲くやすぐに忘れる他人の死

   peach blossoms open—
   how soon we forget
   the deaths of others

     —Kyōko Terada, Haiku Universe for the 21st Century (2008)   

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. My grandfather had a mule he called Marigold. The name underlined the smell of the animal. And yes, princess K, I find marigolds quite stinky 🙂

  2. What I find interesting is that there is a mention of season – summer
    and there is the timeline: end of

    plus

    there is ‘marigold’ which is a most interesting flower, given that it is a …late spring flower in some places, a summer and late summer flower and in India it is grown all year round, particularly in the autumn for Dussherah and Deepawali …

    i think the first line pins the poem onto the map of the world

    and that I think is brilliant.

    —-

    far-fetched tangential override:

    I think this poem as a statement of celebration:

    ohkaaay, the summer’s days are done, time to celebrate the onset of golden foliage and how well the marigold dries in the vase, keeping its colours, brightening the space, how nice to have tea with friends and talk about the garden flowers, gosh the old scissors still hold the smell when I cut them for the vase on the coffee table …

    and that is the wabi in there, the imperfection and simplistic beauty of marigolds still fragrant even though they did not bloom yesterday and their glorious blooming in the summer is done with, their fragrance still holds on even after the pruning …
    … though many a times, I have sketched the browning centres of marigolds with a semi-dried leaf in a makeshift vase…
    marigolds age well
    —-

      1. .
        .
        Hi Pratima – I agree with you – Clayton’s response is lovely – remarks very well drawn, as Radhamani observed.
        .
        Here’s what I see in the haiku:
        .
        .
        end of summer
        the rust on my scissors
        smells of marigolds
        .

        Margaret Chula, The Wonder Code (2017)
        .
        .
        Marigolds do make lovely cut flower arrangements that last a long time, however, in my experience the fragrance is very unpleasant, what I would characterize prosaically as “stinky”.
        .
        One of the reasons that marigolds are planted is as an organic insecticide – they ward off nasty pests. It is possible that the scissors smell of marigolds because the author was cutting them for flower arrangements, however, I suggest that she had possibly been deadheading the marigolds throughout the summer.
        .
        Deadheading is the process of removing dead or withered flowers from a plant, especially to promote new blooms and/or prevent the setting of seeds.
        .
        The botanical purpose of flowers is to produce seeds so that the plant can reproduce. The offspring seedlings that result from the withered “deadheads” are called “volunteers.
        .
        However, when you remove flowers before they start producing seeds, the plant will still want to propagate itself, therefore it will produce new flowers to meet this goal. Plants in nature do just fine without being deadheaded, and removing spent blossoms is rarely important for the health of the plant.
        .
        You may draw your own conclusions as to the emotional content, what the author is “saying without saying” as Clayton pointed out in his remarks.
        .
        .

        1. a most remarkable response Princess… what an odd name you have…(says the pot to the pan)

          how words colour our thoughts,…no…?

          (marigold petals are used in hand paper, and no, I have not found marigolds stinky… having had to handle them and thread them into garlands and etc… , I refused to wear them in my hair though, like the rest of my buddies would …one of them was a monkey…and I am going off course…of course, :))

  3. Dear Clayton Beach,
    Greetings. in your insightful analysis, the following remarks are wonderfully drawn. very nice observation.

    sensuous ku, the focus on the rust itself brings thoughts of age, decay and evanescence, capturing a feeling of resigned acceptance that we generally find in haiku about autumn, despite the presence of the words “summer” and “marigolds.” T

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